Formula 1

Kaltenborn Splits From Sauber

Sauber’s team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has stepped down the team effective immediately, meaning the team that are currently ninth in the constructors championship will be without a team principal heading into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend.

Kaltenborn joined Sauber in 2000 as head of its legal department and became the Swiss team’s CEO in 2010, following a rebuild of the team by Peter Sauber after BMW pulled out of the sport. Following this she became a part owner of the team in 2011. She made history in 2012 to become the first ever female team principal. A role she has held up until her split from the team.

The 2012 season was a positive season for Sauber, with the team managing to score several podium finishes at the Malaysian, Canadian, Italian, and Japanese Grand Prix’s. Though since then the team has begun to struggle to deliver consistent results as a midfield outfit. And in 2014 the team failed to score a single World Championship point. Since then they have been regularly at the back of the grid fighting for the low points finishes, though they have yet to have another pointless season like 2014.

Kaltenborn is perhaps best known for overseeing one of the strangest scandals in F1 in 2015, the now infamous Saubergate. When the team headed to the season opener in Australia it was unclear as to who would be driving for them that weekend, as the team technically had three drivers signed up to race for them. Giedo van der Garde claimed the team had agreed in 2014 that he could race for them in 2015 alongside Adrian Sutil, before the team announced their new driver line up of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. Prior to the season opener the team reached a settlement with Sutil over his contract, however van der Garde took the team to court for his right to race.

The result was a confusing Australian Grand Prix weekend for the team, with the team facing the possibility of having assets seized by bailiffs for being in contempt of court for not letting van de Garde drive. The team reached a temporary settlement with van de Garde which saw him not race for the team in Australia while they looked for a more permanent solution to the problem. Eventually van de Garde backed down from his legal challenge following a significant compensation fee from the team for him to relinquish his contract.

A common theme throughout Kaltenborn’s run as team principal has been financial trouble for the Sauber F1 team. On several occasions the team have faced the speculation that they could fold. Especially in 2016 when it was questionable if they would even make it to the end of the season. Though it was Kaltenborn who oversaw the sale of the team to Longbow Finance last year. Although she kept her role as CEO and team principal Kaltenborn had to relinquish her shares in the team. While Peter Sauber had to step down as chairman of the board.

Following the demise of the Manor F1 team, Sauber were expected to be the backmarkers for the season. However, much to everyone’s surprise Pascal Wehrlein managed to score four points from his eighth place finish in Spain. Meaning they are now ahead of the pointless McLaren team in the constructors standings for this year.

When Peter Sauber sold his controlling stake of the team to Longbow Finance last year it was reported early on that the Swiss based investment firm wanted to bring in their own individual to run the team on a day to day basis, ousting Kaltenborn. It is believed the new owner and Kaltenborn could not reach an agreement over how the team should be run. Speculation has been that one of the main issues was the way Longbow wanted to treat the teams drivers this season, Wehrlein and Ericsson. The understanding is the new owners wished to give Ericsson priority over Wehrlein, though Kaltenborn was not in favour of the idea. Ultimately it is this rift between the two parties that is the reason for Kaltenborn’s termination effective immediately.

Monisha Kaltenborn for many was decisive figure in the paddock as the first ever female team principal. She broke ground that previously had been untouched by women, paving the way for the likes of Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams and other young women, as well as becoming a role model for young girls out there with dreams of getting into Formula 1. She showed many of them that despite the male dominated paddock women can, and did get into the top roles within the sport. When asked about how she felt being the first team principal Kaltenborn simply replied.

“I have been part of this environment for so long it doesn’t feel different. I look it from the point of view that I get to wear shoes that very few women get to do!”

Feature Image Credit: Sauber F1 Team Press Release.

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